B2B Digital Marketing Channels, Compared and Ranked
B2B digital marketing requires a good foundational strategy that will deliver results in line with your marketing goals. A successful strategy will invariably involve selecting digital marketing channels that generate enough measurable outcomes to show what’s working and what’s not. Of course, it’s best to attempt to select the channels that will generate the most MQLs in the first place.
In this article, we outline the most effective B2B digital marketing channels for 2023, based on 4 factors: cost, length of time to see results, learning curve, and ROI. We begin by presenting the information in a table, and then describe each channel in more detail, highlighting strategic considerations.
Our data comes from 160+ client accounts researched between 2016 and 2021. (If you are interested in other segmentations of our marketing data, we also have reports on conversion rate by channel; customer acquisition costs by channel and by industry; and lead generation statistics for B2B companies.)
B2B Digital Marketing Channels, Compared
|Channel||Monthly Cost||Time Until Results||Learning Curve||ROI||Used For|
|Thought Leadership SEO||$7,500 to $15,000||4-6 months||Medium||748%||Lead generation, lead nurturing, brand building|
|Webinars/Video||$15,000 to $35,000||2-4 months||Medium||430%||Lead generation, brand building|
|$1,000 to $3,000||3-6 months||Easy||312%||Lead nurturing|
|Podcasts||$5,000 to $9,500||12-18 months||Medium||307%||Lead nurturing|
|LinkedIn Organic||$500 to $3,000||6-8 months||Easy||229%||Lead nurturing, brand building|
|LinkedIn Advertising||$5,000 to $20,000||3-4 months||Easy||192%||Lead generation|
|PPC/SEM||$3,000 to $30,000||Immediate||Medium||36%||Lead generation|
B2B Digital Marketing Channels, Detailed
While the table is meant to give an overview of each digital marketing channel, this section provides insight into the best uses of each channel, as well as tactical guidance on each one.
Thought Leadership SEO
One of the highest-ROI digital marketing channels, combining thought leadership with SEO allows you to rank for commercially valuable keywords and build trust with prospective customers. It is one of the only channels that brings a lead through the entire digital marketing funnel, from demand generation at the awareness stage to the final sale at the end of the conversion stage.
The thought leadership content itself can take many forms, from insightful blog posts, to in-depth how-to guides and videos, to white papers containing industry research. Here’s how to get the most out of this channel:
- Use the Hub & Spoke model. By targeting many keywords in a specific niche, Google will see you as an expert on that specific topic. As a result, your search rankings will increase much more quickly.
- Satisfy searchers by considering search intent. Carefully evaluate what a searcher of each particular keyword is looking for when writing content. Your goal should always be to create the best blog article, landing page, guide, or white paper for that searcher, answering both implicit and explicit questions they may have.
- Offer original insights. The best way to capture visitors’ attention is to show them something they haven’t already seen. All of your thought leadership should offer your unique perspective. Publishing average-quality articles that share common industry knowledge will fail to attract readers, leading to lower engagement rates, lower search rankings, and fewer conversions.
- Share original research. Conducting research—whether through industry surveys or simply by analyzing your internal data—is a great, strategic move to building a reputation as an expert. Most companies engaged in content marketing hold their data close to their chest, meaning that in most industries, publishing yours will quickly make your business a valuable and trusted resource.
- Publish consistently and frequently. This is often one of the most difficult aspects of a thought leadership SEO campaign for many companies. Publishing twice a week (or more) will activate Google’s News Website Bonus, increasing your domain authority and producing results at an accelerated rate.
PPC/SEM is one of the most popular digital marketing channels because results are fast and PPC spend is flexible. Google also makes it easy to track exactly how well your campaigns are performing, leading many digital marketers to rely on PPC for the bulk of their lead generation.
Where it falls short, however, is its ROI and long-term cost. Because you pay for every click (and therefore every visitor it brings in), your spend must inherently grow with your business. This stands in contrast to organic channels such as SEO, in which your ROI increases over time as your campaign grows.
Visitors also tend to trust organic channels more than paid ones. This difference is reflected in the lower conversion rates of PPC when compared with SEO.
|Manufacturing & Distribution||3.0%||1.0%|
Full comparison of SEO and PPC conversion rates available here.
Where PPC truly shines is when the scope of each campaign is tailored to a specific business goal. For example, PPC serves as an excellent stopgap measure when beginning an SEO campaign, ensuring that your marketing continues to bring in leads when waiting for your long-term investments to pay off. Another scenario in which PPC shines is to test out new markets or target keywords that are not within your main Hubs, allowing for your team to collect real world data before committing to a larger campaign.
Email marketing is a popular channel, primarily for lead nurturing, brand awareness, and customer engagement. It reminds existing and potential customers of your company, and also helps drive traffic to blogs, social media, and other thought leadership, improving conversion rates across the board.
Below are some key ways to increase the effectiveness of your emails:
- Segment your email lists, and personalize your message. Dividing your list based on audience type allows you to send the right message to the right people at the right time, increasing your open rates and overall effectiveness of each email. This, in turn, will make them more likely to be converted, engage with you, and/or share your message with others.
- Include a clear & focused call to action. The whole point of utilizing email marketing is to encourage your subscribers to take action, whether that be going to your website, engaging with your LinkedIn posts, or (better yet) reaching out to your sales team. Make it easy for them with a clear next step.
- Stand out with your subject and content. Combine enticing subject lines and a distinctive entertaining voice with your targeted content to get your audience to actually read your message. Your message should sound like it’s coming from a real person, and isn’t just an automated marketing email.
These practices give you better opportunities for building trust with your audience. Email marketing has many benefits. You are reaching an already engaged audience; You are able to target your message to what your audience wants; It’s easy to get started, easy to measure and easy to share. In addition, email marketing platforms are available at a relatively low cost – based on your needs.
LinkedIn is the only social media platform where you can be assured that your audience is actively thinking about business, and therefore, the only social media platform that is valuable for B2B businesses.
The key to using LinkedIn for marketing and lead generation is to consistently publish interesting content. The companies with the highest-performing LinkedIn company pages often post several pieces of original content each week and some even post daily. These posts consist of images, infographics, reshaped blog content, or links to events, webinars and podcasts. Incorporating custom graphics in this way, or even video where appropriate, increases your readers’ engagement far more than simply using text, growing your audience much more quickly.
LinkedIn Advertising has one key benefit over an organic LinkedIn campaign: targeting. As the only professionally focused social media platform, users share detailed information about their location, work experience, and position. This means that when you launch an ad campaign on LinkedIn, your team can get ultra-specific with your audience targeting, targeting users by their company, demographics, education, job experience, and interests.
LinkedIn’s Targeting Options
As a digital advertising platform, you can also easily shift your budget and ad spend in response to your campaign’s performance, allowing you to focus on the demographic segments that provide the highest ROI.
Marketing webinars are lead generation tools that provide free, valuable information with the goal of engaging participants enough that they see the need to upgrade to paid products or services offered by your company.
The most common format for a webinar is a presentation followed by a Q&A session. As a live visual medium, you enjoy your audience’s undivided attention and are able to better connect with them and directly address their needs.
- Demonstrate products and services
- Expand on content published in a blog post
- Showcase their expertise
If you’re planning to use webinars for lead generation, remember: a webinar is not a sales pitch. It’s not about you; it’s about providing value for the participants. One of the first things you need to do to start a webinar marketing campaign is come up with a suitable topic. The best way to do this is by using the top articles on your blog as the foundation for a more in-depth webinar or webinar series. Take engagement into account when making this judgment: If people often ask questions and make comments on a particular piece, that indicates that your audience will be interested in a related webinar.
One of the benefits of podcasting is that it allows your company to become the subject matter expert to an entirely new audience. Here are the steps to setting up a successful podcast:
- Decide on your primary goals: to generate leads, become an industry leader, or to improve general awareness of your brand.
- Choose your podcast’s theme or topic. Make sure you or someone in the company is an expert, has the passion and time to record regularly, and most importantly, possesses charisma that will translate into the audio format. Listeners can sense how knowledgeable and excited you are.
- Do research on podcast directories and see what podcasts already exist in that realm and who you will be competing with. Listen to them and ask what you can do differently and better.
- Come up with 15 or 20 different episodes before committing to a podcast so that you have enough to talk about and won’t struggle for content ideas.
Just like with a webinar, getting your audience to notice you is all in a name. Make sure your podcast name is memorable, catchy and ranks for keywords. Your title should be specific. The title, author and description fields are important for search purposes. When describing your podcast, include as many relevant keywords as possible. This helps with SEO because many who land on your podcast will find it through a search engine.
Choosing the Best Digital Marketing Channels
As you map out your B2B digital marketing strategy, you’ll want to combine the established B2B digital marketing channels with the less-saturated routes to drive awareness. Buyer behavior fluctuates, so B2B companies must remain flexible, engaged with their audiences, and continually at the forefront of customers’ minds.
Our agency specializes in working with B2B companies to build and execute digital marketing strategies. Over the past 12 years, we’ve run successful organic marketing campaigns with brands such as Salesforce, Logitech, and Cadence. If you’re interested in discussing a partnership, let’s connect.
Evan Bailyn is a bestselling author and award-winning speaker on the subjects of SEO and thought leadership. Contact Evan here.